There are plenty of bloggers who claim they can write 20-minute blog posts. Are they delirious?
While following 30 Days of Getting Results the Agile Way, a free online course offered by Microsoft manager J. D. Meier, 20-minute blog posts were offered as an example of setting boundaries. I respect J. D. and know he’s not delirious so I asked him, “Is it really possible to write 20-minute blog posts?”
Lessons from J. D. Meier on writing faster blog posts
J. D. says you can write an excellent blog post in 20 minutes. This is his advice in a nutshell with my added commentary.
1. The key is to get clarity on one specific problem you want to solve. J. D. focuses each post on sharing one useful nugget that solves a problem, answers a question, makes you feel, or makes you laugh.
Having expert knowledge at your fingertips clearly makes it possible to write more quickly. Without expertise, posts will take longer. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on topics you have already mastered, at least part of the time. Take a minute to review your previous posts to see if they have one focus or whether they meander. If you are a wanderer, try practicing one focus per blog article.
2. Write with might. The faster you go, the more you will flow, unleash, and surprise yourself.
This is excellent advice for improving both speed and quality of writing. Write for 20 minutes straight without stopping to review, edit, or make corrections. If you find writing for a full 20 minutes too challenging, start by experimenting with 5-minute free flow sessions. Use this approach for every draft and see if you can pick up speed over time.
3. Use a plain text editor.
J. D. has taught many people on his team to write quickly and not let tools or their inner-critic get in the way. His team members have been surprised by how much faster they write in a plain text editor.
4. Another approach is to aim for 20-minute blog posts progressively by shaving off 10 minutes each time you write a post.
If the idea of a 20-minute blog post is too intimidating, a gradual approach like this might be an effective alternative for you.
5. Each post is an opportunity to practice.
Speed increases with practice. Professional bloggers often advise writing 1,000 words or more each and every day as a means to improving both speed and quality. It takes practice to perfect any skill. This doesn’t mean publishing every word that you write, but practicing daily to get better.
6. Capture your main ideas when they flow, scribble them quickly into a plain text editor or a notebook if you are on the go, and then let them percolate. Go back to an idea when you are in the “zone” and flesh it out.
Speed and quality will always be best when you are in the “zone.” Do you know your optimal times for writing? Do you have methods for getting into the “zone”? Do you write when you are inspired or do you push yourself to soldier on?
7. Finish with a quick pass. When you are done writing your draft in a plain text editor, paste it into your favorite editor or your blog editor, and then make a quick pass to sweep your writing, add links, and tune it up.
Simply being aware of efficiency can help you to find shortcuts for all the steps involved in fine-tuning your first draft as well.
Almost everyone agrees that it’s realistic to aim for a 20-30 minute first draft. Those who have perfected the prowess like Jim Estil are able to write 400-500 word blog posts in 20 minutes. J. D. outshines them all with his capacity to write even longer posts in 20 minutes.
Here’s the caveat: most bloggers find that it’s the additional proofreading, editing, creating links, finding an image, and initial research that take up an extra meaty chunk of time. However, by following and practicing J. D.’s tips, you will be able to reduce the amount of time it takes to write a good first draft. Chances are, you will also find the process more enjoyable.
Reality check with Jon Morrow and James Chartrand
Remember, we are all different. Don’t be disheartened if it takes you longer to write a blog post.
In an article on getting more blog traffic by writing less, Jon Morrow from Copyblogger says,
“Some writers are faster than others, but in general, if you’re spending less than two hours on most of your posts, you’re probably going too fast. Cut back the quantity, and focus on quality.” The 1200-word article that contains this quote, took Jon four hours to write and he said “…that’s pretty fast for me.”
In a comment on Jon Morrow’s article, James Chartrand from Men With Pens says,
“I can write about 500 words in 15 minutes, and it can be good enough to go without an edit. That said, good enough is relevant to where it’s being posted and for what reason. “How to make peanut butter” $5 content mills? You betcha. A leading blog with 100k readers? Truly great blog posts take me a minimum of 2 hours and often around 4, when all the editing, reading aloud, double-checking and extra stuff is factored in.”
Not all of us will win the Olympic medal for the fastest blog post, but we can all improve. Here’s my strategy.
My strategy for writing faster blog posts
My question to J. D. arose from his advice on “Sloughing Off” from 30 Days of Getting Results the Agile Way. He says, “letting things slough off simply means either letting things go from your plate either by design or as a natural process of focusing on higher priorities.” He goes on to explain that this involves creating boundaries and then letting go. Boundaries can be determined by quantity or time.
To achieve my goal of writing faster, I decided to use J. D.’s advice on setting boundaries in addition to practicing his writing tips. I am limiting the total amount of time I spend on blogging each weekday and also keeping an eye on word count. Limiting word count is a great way to reign in a tendency to be wordy or complicated – and your posts will automatically take less time.
J. D.’s tips are helping me to write more efficiently and more effectively. This is freeing up time for other high priority activities—blog related and otherwise—without sacrificing quality. It’s also a great way to avoid writing fatigue and instead keep the joy flowing. Many thanks to J. D. Meier.
I’m curious: How long does it take for you to write a first draft? A complete a post? I would love to hear your advice on writing faster, please share.
If you liked this article, please share the link. Thanks so much! Sandra